“Walk Up, Not Out” is Cruel, Selfish Advice


If you’re a grownup (or an approximate simulation of one) and you are sharing the Walk Up Not Out meme, please stop. It is reprehensible to either demand or counsel our youths to “walk up, not out,” for two reasons:

1. The student walkouts aren’t your movement. That’s a movement made by youths for youths, to ask grownups to listen to them. So listen to them. You don’t get to shout over them or erase what they have to say just because what they have to say or how they’re saying it is uncomfortable to you.

2. I don’t think you realize how absurdly dangerous and tone-deaf that advice is, to “walk up” to the people who might be thinking of doing a mass school shooting next month. You wouldn’t (I hope) advise a sixteen-year-old student who is afraid of being raped to “walk up” to her assailant. You wouldn’t (I hope) advise a seventeen-year-old to “be nice” to the blind date that they fear might be physically abusive. You wouldn’t (I hope) advise an eighteen-year-old walking home at night to go be friends with the man trailing them on their way home. Why would you ask for high schoolers who are afraid of being shot to go “be nice” to people they are afraid of being shot by?

Of course, we should be kind and loving to all people. Of course we don’t want some youths feeling excluded and ostracized at school. But I felt excluded as a youth, and I didn’t go gun down twenty people. Maybe I was too busy — I had twenty goats to milk — but somehow I get the impression that just feeling excluded is not the root cause of mass shootings. And for the love of God, “be nice to the person who will become the next mass shooter if you aren’t nice enough to them” is NOT a solution to mass murder. That is NOT a message we want to give our young people. That is an inhumanely cruel and selfish message to give.

Cruel, because oh my GOD, people, our youths are walking out of schools because they want the grownups to listen to what they have to say, and you’d rather respond with platitudes that could get them killed rather than stop a moment and just listen to them and honor them with that much attentiveness. And what a victim-blaming piece of tripe: “Be nice, because if you aren’t nice enough to that person you’re scared of, they might shoot you and all your friends, and it will be your fault.”

And selfish, because the only reason to say something like that is to make you feel more comfortable.


If our teens have something they want us very badly to hear, we, the grownups they’ll inherit the world from, owe it to them to take the time to hear them.

And you know what, I’m not done. If the only solution the grownups can come up with for hundreds of our children being killed is “Arm all the teachers so they can go all ‘Shootout at the OK Corral’ on the bad guys” or, conversely, “Shower the killers with love and Care-Bear power,” then we deserve to shut the hell up for a bit and let the kids talk.

Stant Litore

New Book from Stant Litore!


“This day has gone long enough without a death.”

Hi everyone! I am so pleased to announce the release of a new novelette in paperback and on the kindle.  The Screaming of the Tyrannosaur is set in the same universe as The Running of the Tyrannosaurs (and is the same length) – but happens a generation earlier. It is the story of the first young woman who ever rode a tyrannosaur. It’s also a story about finding kinship in the darkest of places. And finally, it’s a high-adrenaline race on dinosaur-back on a privately chartered orbital dinodrome over a thousand years in our future. Come read it!

This novelette first appeared in Jurassic Chronicles (2017), an anthology of dinosaur fiction published in the Future Chronicles series, alongside stories by Victor Milan and Seanan McGuire, edited by Samuel Peralta and Crystal Pikko Watanabe. Sam Peralta had this to say about the story:

“This is a pulse-pounding story, a triumph of world-building – a story of gladiatorial combat, and of bonds strange and transcendent. Without a doubt, one of the most enthralling stories I’ve come across.”

I hope you will enjoy the story! Thank you for following my fiction and assorted adventures! I am excited to share this story with you.

The cover is by artist and writer Roberto Calas.

More on this series
I am just four scenes away from completing my revised draft of Nyota’s Tyrannosaur, a 200-page novel set in the same universe. Then it is off to my developmental editor! If all goes well, I’ll be able to bring this novel to you this summer.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t read it yet, here is the original story, The Running of the Tyrannosaurs, which is available in paperback, audiobook, and kindle editions. I am offering the ebook free to those who join my mailing list to hear about upcoming releases and deals on my fiction – you can do that, and claim your book, here.


Dear Fellow Readers: SF Can Be Diverse AND Awesome, At the Same Time



Reposting comments here from another thread because it’s something that’s on my mind lately. I have a lot of empathy (and affinity) for people who want action/monsters/pulp in their SciFi, because I’m one of them. (I mean, hello, I write about zombies, tyrannosaurs, and tentacled soul-eating aliens.) I have a completely shameless love for pulp SF and sword and sorcery and B movie monsters.

But what does alternately irritate or bemuse me is when people gripe about SF getting “too political,” and half the time the examples they give for “political” SF are stories that are giving us pulp and awesomeness and pirates and B movie monsters. Remember that fan who chewed out Scott Lynch because one of the protagonists of Red Seas Under Red Skies is a black woman pirate captain who is also a single mother with toddlers, and the fan was whining about how it was so “unrealistic” and “political” and he certainly didn’t want to read about any black female pirate captains who are also mothers, … and the gist of Scott’s response was “Go eat a wheevil-infested biscuit, dude, I think my black single mother pirate captain is fucking badass.” And I was reading that thinking Hell YEAH, she’s badass. Who doesn’t want to read a high-action fantasy novel with a pirate captain single parent who swings from one ship to the other, takes no shit from anyone, cuts her way to the treasure, takes it, then swings back in time to read her kids a bedtime story? Hell. Yeah.

As a craftsman, I certainly don’t want books to get over-the-top preachy. But almost invariably, when I run into someone who complains about preachy SF and needing “less SJW pontificating, more knife-throwing and warriors doing warrior things,” or who wants “stories that are just stories” and “no subtext,” I’ve really run into someone who just wants stories where the subtext doesn’t challenge their worldview.

Which is cool.

That’s fine.

But geez, going on about how their beloved stories have no subtext and all the stories written from other perspectives and backgrounds are hitting them over the head with subtext … that gets old.

The guy in this conversation described a story about a European explorer who has an adventure on the planet Venus and gets the girl, and he thinks maybe you can find “subtext in it if you looked for hours, if you wanted to.” But action SF that doesn’t star white dudes colonizing other worlds and getting the girl are “overwhelming” him with their subtext. Dude, come on.


For accessibility, here’s a transcript of my comment written in the screenshot:

Dude. It sounds like “good escapist story,” for you = “story where the subtext doesn’t threaten my worldview, so I can just relax into the action.” Which is cool, Brad, I like reading stories that feel comfortable too, but pretending that’s the same as no subtext and no pontificating is a bit disingenuous. You just happen to enjoy action-thick stories where the subtext is more comfortable to you, rather than less comfortable.

I mean, old-school pulp space opera and sword and sorcery, genres defined by their quantity of knife-throwing, spilled guts, damsels, and explosions, oozed subtext, too. A Princess of Mars is an action story about a rugged individual southern white male who rescues a naked space princess from a communal tribal society while speechifying about the evils of communism and the nobility of the warrior virtues and the sexiness of naked space princesses, and it has, um, subtext. And there are Conan stories about a blue-eyed barbarian rescuing a helpless white damsel from a tribe of cannibal black dudes while hacking, smashing, chopping monsters and people to bits while speechifying about the differences between civilization and barbarism, and it’s all blood and breasts everywhere and rapid action and knife-throwing, and there’s subtext oozing from every orifice Conan has. So much subtext it isn’t subtext anymore, it’s more like … overtext. It’s more like subtext delivered with an axe-blow and a battle-cry.

White dude space traveler goes to Venus and wins the day and gets the girl: subtext. It might just not be subtext that bothers you. Which is okay. Read whatever gives you enjoyment; I do. But if you’re going to draw a line in the sand between “SF with subtext that doesn’t give me any trouble” and “SF with subtext I have to think about,” and define one as “stories that are just stories” and the other as “SJW pontificating,” um, … dude.

Stant Litore

tl;dr: Read whatever you like. Read whatever brings you enjoyment. But if you have to get on your high-horse about how your white-warrior-explores-the-universe-gets-the-girl story is completely apolitical and without subtext and everyone else’s story is pontificating, sooner or later everyone else is going to be over here enjoying them some Black Panther and some badass black pirate captain single mothers burning half the fleet and some queer gladiators competing on dinosaur-back and we’re going to be so high on adrenaline and getting so overwhelmed by all this subtext you’re scared of that our palms will be sweating through the pages. And yeah, we might be thinking a bit too, from time to time, engaging the gray matter, if something in a story unsettles or challenges us, because some of us enjoy that in SF. Some of us like our SF with a dose of “what the fuck, maybe the world’s more complex than I thought.” Seriously, dude.


“The One Who Loves is Far from Error,” and Other Sayings of St. Polycarp Today, On His Feast Day


Today is the feast day of St. Polycarp, whose story I told here.

The novel I wrote, What Our Eyes Have Witnessed, is an … unusual … but reverent celebration of a remarkable figure. A man who once wrote in a letter to a community that was primarily a mix of Greek and Middle Eastern women and their families whose religion had just recently been unrecognized by the Roman government (whose magistrates at the time wanted nothing to do with “dangerous” Middle Eastern immigrants and their ways), with lethal consequences…he wrote:

“Stand fast and follow our master’s example, with firm and constant faith, loving each other, united in unforgetting, helping one another with the focused gentleness of the master, despising no man.”

That he could live in the violent and divided time in which he did — an era that put him violently to death — and write of living with “focused gentleness, despising no man,” has always moved me.

He also wrote:

“I do not see my master, but I trust him; trusting him, I have unspeakable joy.”

He also wrote,

“The one who loves is far from error.”

He also wrote,

“The one who cannot hold himself back from love of money has been devoured by idolatry.”

And when told before being burned by the magistrate of Smyrna that he must recant his faith and revoke his community if he wished to live, he said gently,

“I think you are pretending that you don’t know who I am.”

Asked a second time, he growled,

“Eighty years and six have I served my master, who has never harmed me in all that time; why should I forsake him now?”

The third time:

“Why do you delay? Do what you will.”

So I told his story. That of the patient man who fed the impoverished, taught the young, told hopeful stories, and committed that he would despise no one, even at the hour of his death.

I might have blended his story quite a bit with that of Clement of Rome, and I might have told his story with a few ravenous zombies included in it. But I do not think the story suffered for it.

My fictional Polycarp said these things, in the story:

“Nothing is broken that cannot be remade,
Nothing is ill that cannot be healed,
Nothing captive that cannot be freed.
We must live lives of unstoppable hope.”

And he cautioned:

All our lives, we feed on what leaves us hungry, drink from what leaves us thirsting. Because we are always left hungry and always thirsty, we begin to think that those visible objects of our hunger are what we need most. A loaf of bread, a pouch of coins, the respect of others, success, a woman’s body, or a man’s. Or even a person o a thing from times past, something lost and remembered that we crave. But it is not so. These are not what we need most. Our hunger thieves us from our true selves. Like a violent fever, the hunger eats away mind and spirit. In the end, everything that we truly are is gone. Only the hunger remains. Even other men and women are no longer anything but food to us, meat for our desires and obsessions.

“We can feed on each other, or we can feed each other and feed with each other.”

And he confronted the court of Rome with these words, speaking truth to power:

“You wish to believe that we who worship differently are therefore a different kind of people, a people capable of any sacrilege and therefore deserving of any punishment. But your wishing does not make it so! You make so much of the fact that I come to you here from the Subura. It is pointless. The distinctions you make, make fools of you. Patrician, plebian.” He turned, held the youngest juror’s gaze with his. “You wear the toga; I wear the simpler tunic of the people. It means nothing. Stripped of it, you and I look the same—just two men hungering and thirsting. It is only a garment. What matters is the heart.” He took his sleeve between his chained hands, tried to tear it; the cloth was stubborn. “Look at it. Look at it!” he cried. “A thousand threads—different threads—woven together so they cannot break. That is what we are to be. We are to be one cloth, one body, one gathering. Patrician! Plebian!” he shouted. “You weaken Rome with your distinctions. Rome now is not one whole cloth but layers, castes, one sitting atop the other. It needs only a strong wind, and the separated layers of the city will be tossing in the air, tumbling and helpless. We cannot survive unwoven from each other. You have to understand that.

“We are all on trial,” he cried. “Our dead are here to demand answers, and we are out of time. We have to choose, now, this day. Will we have a City divided into the eaters and the eaten—a City populated in the end only by the hungry dead!—or will we build a City where we break bread together, all of us, not feeding on each other but feeding and sustaining each other? Give me your verdict, please, then let me rest. The past few days have been more exhausting than any in my life. I will admit that I would rather die in my bed than in a fire. But now, if you can’t manage to look at the truth and decide what to do about it, I am done talking with you.”

And at the moment of his death:

“I have done my work in the world.”

The Polycarp whose story I told has been a comfort to me many times, a father I would have liked to have had.

Stant Litore

Cover art by Lauren K. Cannon.

The 3 False Gods of America


After a few years of posting and conversing online, my sense of what people regard as sacred has changed significantly. By that I mean what people really treat as sacred. You can tell what’s truly sacred to people by what they will arrive to defend at the merest suggestion that their idol might be threatened.

Years past, based on my own upbringing, right or wrong, I had expected that certain things — religion, the honor due to veterans, the innate dignity of all people regardless of physical ability/disability, and the value of learning — would be held sacred. In fact, none of these four are really held as sacred by people online. Even religion. I have posted thoughtful ruminations on religious topics many times without drawing the least ire, and in fact drawing interest or inquiry from many different people of many different beliefs.

Here are 3 things that are actually held sacred by large numbers of Americans in the online public sphere, 3 things that if questioned or conversed about openly shall bring forth ire and hostility and vigorous defense:

1. Guns.
Anything involving guns. Holy Winchester and Colt, these are sacred as fuck. Far more than God or country. So much as utter the word “gun” into a crowded room, and compassion and reason will flee your vicinity with extreme haste, and foaming at the mouth shall commence.

2. Bullying.
Specifically, the right of a white or white-passing man to bully women online without censure or consequence. I have seen this right defended time and time again, in defiance of all reason and evidence. For at least some, the right to bully is held sacred. If someone’s words or actions, however vile, should wound or endanger, … the defense, healing, or continued security of the woman assailed remains treated as her sole responsibility. For many who hold this sacred, a man is almost never bullying; a woman is merely too sensitive. This dynamic is often transposed onto other marginalized individuals as well, whether they be men of color, our LGBTQ+ neighbors, or the young, who get described in effeminate terms. White America is the community that wishes to believe it has no bullies, only snowflakes.

3. Intent.
Intent is sacred. There is a widely held belief that as long as one’s “intent” is pure, one is then absolved of all responsibility for the impact of one’s words or actions. Calls for introspection on such words or actions can be met with hostility and acute personal affront. Suggest that a man’s words reinforce systemic racism or other injustices, and it does not matter to him whether his words do so or not, so long as he feels his intent to be as unracist as Martin Luther King’s. Our ancestors, sometimes wiser than we, might quote a favorite proverb and remind us what the road to hell is paved with, but we are apparently not listening. Intent is held to be sacred and inviolable whether by circumstance or argument.

Frankly, I think all three of these are ridiculous things to hold sacred. This is idolatry of the most poisonous kind: to set up idols whose unquestioned worship tends toward our destruction. We need to reconsider our gods.

Stant Litore

One of Our Great Ones Has Moved On


RIP Ursula K. Le Guin. I am saddened to hear of her passing. I don’t think there is any way to overstate the impact her fiction had on me as a young writer, and likely still has on me in so many ways. Earthsea was my Hogwarts. And The Left Hand of Darkness and her short stories opened up for me, as a young teen, a kind of vigorous, thoughtful, and demanding speculative fiction I hadn’t known was possible. One of our great ones has left us.


Important Update


To my great dismay, the head of the Boulder nonprofit Humanwire, established to crowdsource support for Syrian refugee families, has been arrested and is being tried for theft from the organization. Because I cannot verify that my funds have reached the families they were intended for, this month I will be making a donation to a more long-established nonprofit in equal amount to what I previously provided to Humanwire. I will continue donating 50% of funds from sales of Rasha’s Letter  to relief efforts for Syrian refugees, but will not be routing these through Humanwire, but instead to either UNICEF’s relief mission in Syria or to Doctors Without Borders, both of which continue to deliver critical aid.

This is one of the most pressing humanitarian crises of our time, and I urge you all to do what you can.